What is Crystal Meth?
At the beginning of the year, people all around the world put together lists of promises to keep. They may say, “I’ll stop drinking coffee,” or “I’ll exercise every morning, without fail.” When March rolls around, many of these promises have been forgotten or simply broken. The fact of the matter is that it’s hard to make a life change like this, and stick to it every day, when so many other priorities seem to clamor for attention.
People struggling with a crystal meth addiction may know this all too well. Each day, they may renew a promise not to use drugs. And each day, they may slide back into the addiction.
The drug is powerful, and the addiction-related habits are strong, and it can be hard to break those habits alone. That’s why rehabilitation programs are so very important. By entering a structured program, the addict can get the needed help to change those habits, and break the chemical bonds that tie the addict to the addiction.
The Role of Detoxification
Rehabilitation programs take work, persistence and a great deal of thought. People who are still abusing methamphetamine may not have the ability to do this work. Therefore, they must go through a detoxification process before they enroll in a rehabilitation program.
According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, withdrawal from methamphetamine can include:
- Intense itching
- Psychotic episodes
- Cravings for the drug
Users going through this process alone face a high risk of relapse, as they know that they can make the symptoms stop as soon as they take the drug once more. In addition, people in the middle of a psychotic episode can cause a significant amount of damage to their homes, and they may also physically hurt themselves or the people they love. For these reasons, it’s often safer for an addict to go through the detoxification process under medical supervision. Here, they may have access to medications that can ease symptoms, and they’ll be in a safe environment where they’re less likely to sustain harm.
While there are no specific drugs that have been developed to help meth addicts recover, research suggests that some existing drugs do have the ability to provide some relief.
For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the drug AV411 performed well in a study on rats, helping the addicted animals reduce their cravings for the drug and their stress related to meth withdrawal. Similarly, the NIDA reports that some antidepressant drugs have been helpful in reducing meth abuse in addicts. Sometimes, addicts begin taking these medications in their detoxification programs, and they then take the medications through the rehabilitation process. This isn’t always the case, however, as some rehabilitation programs don’t allow people to take any medications whatsoever while they’re doing rehab work.
When detoxification is complete, rehabilitation can begin. Some programs provide this care as part of their crystal meth rehabilitation services, and other programs require addicts to go through detoxification before they enroll in their program.
Routes of Care
No two treatment plans are exactly alike, just as no two addicts are exactly alike. The treatment provided is closely matched to the needs of the addict at that time. In order to perform that customization, the addict will meet with an addiction counselor at the beginning of the rehabilitation process and go through a formal assessment. Here, the counselor will determine:
- How long the person has been abusing meth
- How motivated that person is to get better
- The ability of friends and family to support the addict in recovery
- The addict’s employment and educational status
- The addict’s mental and physical health status
With this information, the counselor can come up with a comprehensive treatment plan for the addict.
In some cases, the addict will need to enter an inpatient program for rehabilitation care. Here, the addict lives in the treatment facility, receiving care 24 hours per day, seven days per week.According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, these programs are best for people who have serious health issues, or who have poor social connections at home. In addition, people who have tried to recover from addiction before and failed might also do best in an inpatient program.
The intensive help might make a big difference. People who don’t have these concerns might benefit from outpatient programs, where they continue to live at home while receiving addiction services.
Addiction recovery often involves hours of time in therapy. Often, the addict works with the same therapist who performed the intake interview, but if the addict doesn’t connect with this person, another counselor might be a better choice.
The therapist and the addict have a significant amount of work to do together, so the addict truly needs to find someone that he or she can connect with, trust and believe in. There are many different approaches therapists can use to treat methamphetamine addiction.
According to NIDA, the Matrix Model, which was developed in the 1980s, has been used to treat well over 1,000 methamphetamine abusers, and it’s been found to be quite effective. The Matrix Model usually lasts for about 16 weeks, and it includes several different types of help. An addict might work with the counselor one day, learning more about the addiction and how it works, and then the addict might spend the following day in a group session with other meth addicts. In some cases, the addict might submit to testing, to ensure that a relapse has not occurred, and if a relapse has occurred, the addict might go immediately to a relapse prevention group.
It’s a kind model, involving a significant amount of talking and learning, and it differs from other models used in addiction as the addict is spending a lot of time in many groups.
The counselor functions as a cheerleader and a coach, encouraging the addict to believe in recovery and build up the skills to sustain it. But the counselor doesn’t use any sort of confrontation or aggression to get this message across.
According to a study published in the journal Addiction, those addicts provided with the Matrix Model participated in more sessions, stayed in treatment longer and had longer periods of abstinence than did people who were not given the Matrix Model. It’s clear that this method has the power to create change. In the Matrix Model, instead of spending every session talking with the counselor, the addict is spending some time with the counselor and some time in groups with other addicts. This group work can be quite helpful.
Some counselors use a method known as contingency management to inspire meth users to work through their addictions and stay in treatment. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, therapists who use this model test addicts for illicit substances several times per week, and if the addicts submit clean tests, they can draw plastic chips or slips of paper from a bowl and win a prize valued at $1 to $100. If clients continue to submit clean tests, and they attend all of their appointments as required, they may be given more options to win prizes. The chance to win big can be a strong pull for an addict, encouraging him or her to stay clean and resist temptation.
Power in Numbers
While an addict might spend a significant amount of time with a counselor, both in individual meetings and in group sessions, the power of sharing with other addicts in recovery simply cannot be overstated. Addiction is isolating, and it might cause the addict to feel as though he or she is the only person in the world who has dealt with that problem in that way. It can make an addict feel helpless. A support group is designed to break down that sense of isolation, connecting an addict to a group of others also in recovery.
This group can share freely, without judgment, and they can support one another in a deep and meaningful way that outsiders may simply be unable to understand.
Some programs, including Narcotics Anonymous, use a 12-step model of recovery. The NIDA reports that the purpose of this group is to engage the addict in work, therefore reducing the addict’s need to use drugs. The addict has something to do, and goals to work toward, and this can help promote abstinence. The 12-step model isn’t the only model available, however.
In fact, a wide variety of support groups have sprung up all around the country. Some groups, such as SMART Recovery, are designed to help addicts who are atheistic and uncomfortable with the religious overtones of 12-step groups. Other programs hold online-only meetings, for people who live in rural areas and can’t head into town to go to a meeting. There are many, many options to choose from. In some cases, an addict chooses his or her own group. In other cases, the addict asks the counselor to find a suitable meeting.
Addiction habits can be modified through counseling and support groups, but these habits did spring from some source, and until that source is addressed, the addict may be sorely tempted to return to addiction. For this reason, most addiction programs do their part to help address multiple aspects of the addict’s life. The addict might be directed to low-income housing options, for example, or the addict might be given a referral to a job-training program. A stable job and secure home could help keep a relapse at bay. Childcare, parenting, marriage counseling, food stamps and more might also make up an addict’s comprehensive recovery program.
In addition, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, people who abuse methamphetamine are at high risk for a variety of health problems, including:
- Heart damage
- Hepatitis B and C
- Kidney disease
These medical conditions must also be addressed, as part of the addict’s comprehensive recovery program. For some addicts, this means that addiction counselors work in concert with the addict’s doctor to come up with a comprehensive outpatient health program. Other addicts must receive all of this care in an inpatient program, until their physical health is stable and they’re able to go home.
As mentioned, crystal methamphetamine is incredibly addictive, and the risk of relapse is real and persistent. According to the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 36 percent of people who completed a methamphetamine rehabilitation program relapsed to drug use within six months. The researchers found that the shorter amount of time spent in treatment was associated to a shorter amount of time before relapse. This highlights the importance of ongoing care in addiction.
It’s a chronic condition that can’t be attacked for a few weeks or months and then forgotten. Instead, it might take an addict a lifetime of work to control.
Many addicts transition from inpatient programs to outpatient programs, and they then lean on their community support groups to help them maintain their sobriety over the coming months and years. If they relapse, they walk back through this continuum, scheduling touch-up meetings with their addiction counselors after a relapse, or readmitting themselves into treatment programs after a particularly bad bout of addiction relapse.
It’s important to point out that a relapse is not a moral failing and it doesn’t mean that the addiction programs don’t work. Instead, it is an indication of the chronic nature of the disease. Just as a person with diabetes might, from time to time, eat a sweet treat and suffer an insulin reaction, a person with addiction might struggle with temptation from time to time and need additional help. It’s just part of the nature of the addiction, and it is to be expected.
Recovery is possible, but this recovery might take years of hard work to sustain. The rewards are, however, well worth the work. If you need help finding a program that can treat your crystal meth addiction, we have a trusted network of providers we can recommend for you. We are here to answer your questions and connect you with high-quality treatment. Call 855-317-8377.